Thoughts on Goals, Perspective and Inaction

Hope you enjoyed the end of 2022 and had a fantastic start of the year.

We often hear “new year, new me”, which comes with a bundle of good resolutions and goals to achieve, but for some of us, it can appear silly.

After all, nothing truly changes from the 31st of December to the 1st of January, so why make a big fuss about it?

What’s the point in making promises to ourselves that we won’t be able to keep?

What’s the point in aiming for changes that we can’t make realities?

Are we just trading time and effort for disappointment and a big bag of nothing?

Our disenchantment can be traced back to the previous years as we did challenge ourselves with new goals but fell short. And like a child who burnt herself touching a cooktop, we decide it is best not to use it at all. We would rather deprive ourselves of hot meals than risk injuring ourselves again.

When we look back and realise we didn’t achieve what we wanted, it leaves us with a bitter taste. We see our investment as wasted and teach ourselves that failure has a cost.

Fearing losing again, we often believe we are better off doing nothing. But the reality is that the cost of inaction often far exceeds the cost of failure.

During one of my research interviews for my book, a participant explained a situation he faced, when he was looking for a job. He had received two similar job offers but could not decide which one to take. So he remained silent, even after a follow-up from the recruiters. And in the same week, both companies withdrew their offer as they found another suitable candidate.

As he feared making a mistake, his inaction cost him both job offers. Had he chosen one, even if it were not the best, he would have still been better off.

Unfortunately, we often misevaluate the true cost of inaction, especially when we get overwhelmed by the potential cost of failure. So, we prefer doing nothing rather than risking losing (also forfeiting immediately any chance of succeeding).

I observe this behaviour quite often in companies, which is in part due to their inability to shift perspective.

When the leadership team does a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, it can be mild and full of political correctness. Weaknesses and threats are just future strengths and hidden opportunities.

Ultimately this makes the status quo more appealing.

So, one way to properly gauge the cost of inaction is to change our point of view. For companies, I adapted a game developed by Lisa Bonnell named “Kill The Company”. I ask leaders to imagine themselves as their most ruthless competitors and ideate on the Top 10 things they could do to put their company out of business.

What would you do to bankrupt (legally) your company? What actions would hurt the most? The ability to execute with the right resources and in a timely manner doesn’t matter. Just assume you can’t fail.

Would you aggressively lure your top employees with higher wages and development programs? Undercut your distribution channels by launching a new offering online, accessible directly to your customers? Create a product competing with your cash cow one to decrease its profitability?

It forces them to look at the weaknesses and threats differently, from an outsider’s perspective.

With a new starting point, “Kill The Company” exercise vividly shows the risk of not doing anything (while your competitors are on the move). Suddenly, the cost of inaction appears far greater than the one of doing something and being unsuccessful because the former can literally put you out of business.

At a personal level, we can use similar reasoning, change our perspective and adopt the point of view of our future self. Fast forward five years from now and compare a scenario where everything remains unchanged and one where you took proactive actions to achieve your goals.

The difference is your cost of inaction.

What if you start writing a few pages per week? You could have a published book by then.

What if you exercise regularly? Down the line, you could be doing this marathon you always aspire to.

What if you begin learning this new coding language? This might get you a promotion or a great opportunity in another company.

Don’t let the cost of failure hold you back in stagnation; instead, take action to achieve your aspirations. Your future self will thank you.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.

To your success,

Lison xX

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Picture of Lison Mage

Lison Mage

I help clever individuals and teams conquer overthinking and perform at their full potential. Together, we can go from a place of uncertainty and being paralyzed by doubt to gaining clarity on your current situation, where you want to go, and how to get you there!


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